Butterfly Wings

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THANKS A MILLION – Poetry October 14, 2008

Filed under: Poetry — anet smith @ 1:25 pm


Grimes, Nikki.  Thanks a Million.  Ill. by Cozbi A. Cabrera.  New York:  Greenwillow Books, 2006.



Thanks a Million contains 16 poems that express gratitude about every day experiences of children.  Although thematic by the same author, the collection has many forms including a rebus and haiku.  Expressions of thanks can be found for a tutor, a new friend, weekends, and for not being alone even though the child is at a homeless shelter.



Most of the poems contain rhyme and it is done in a way that sounds natural.  The word choice makes sense and doesn’t sound forced.  “My baby brother’s such a chore/What do I have to watch him for?”


The last poem is aptly a Thanksgiving prayer, but the rest of the poems will point out to readers that thankfulness is an attitude to be expressed year-round in every day situations.  The poems contain realistic emotions that children may have and give them a vehicle to express themselves.  They will see they can express gratitude in letter, gifts, acts of service, words and sign language. 


The artwork is done in bright acrylics.  In some places it is not detailed and appears like folk art, but it adds to the emotion of the poem.  In the illustration for “Scout’s Honor”, a child is shown holding up three fingers.  While that may be most familiar to adults as a scout’s honor sign, to children, I think the Cub Scout sign (two fingers) would be more appropriate.


Children of all ages will enjoy the verse and artwork in this book where they will find at least one (if not several) poem they can relate to their life and feelings.



SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL:  A lovely book for reflection and discussion.”

BOOKLIST: “…her [Cabrera] sunlit palette conveys the warm feelings and burnishes the skin tones of the many characters of color.”



*All of the poems would be appropriate to memorize and recite.

*Children can choose a poem to help them express thankfulness to a family member.

*More poetry by Nikki Grimes

Danitra Brown, Class Clown ISBN: 9780688172909

Welcome, Precious  ISBN: 9780439557023

* Grimes’ most recent book, Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope is on the New York Times Best Seller List.

* http://www.nikkigrimes.com/ There are teaching guides available for each of Grimes’ books at her website.

*Also illustrated by Cabrera

Stichin’ and Pullin’ by Patricia C. McKissack

Beauty, Her Basket by Sandra Belton



THE BRAID – Poetry October 13, 2008

Filed under: Poetry — anet smith @ 10:23 pm


Frost, Helen.  The Braid.  New York:  Frances Foster Books, 2006.  ISBN:  0374309620



The Braid takes place in 1850 during the Highland Clearances in Scotland when many tenants were forced to leave their land.  Sarah, Jeannie and their family plan to sail to Canada.  The night before their journey, the sisters braid their hair together.  The next morning Sarah is gone – she has cut the braid and left half with Jeannie.  Each sister’s story is told in alternating narrative poems.  There is a short (eight lines, eight syllables) emotive poem praising a topic from the narration in between each one. Universal issues of death, separation, poverty, love, teen pregnancy, and longings are interwoven to form a moving and fascinating novel.



This book drew me in from the beginning.  I had to find out what happened with each sister so I could not put the book down until it was finished! The Braid is full of emotion and it will not have any trouble capturing the attention of young adult readers.


Although the sister who is pregnant feels shame at first, I feel the situation is almost too easy for the character.  It is wonderful that she is eventually accepted and helped, but I don’t think it accurately portrays what a teen in this situation would experience today.  It needs to be viewed in its historical content.


The short praise poems are braided together in that the last line in one is the first line in the next poem.  In the sister’s narrative poems, the last word of each line is braided into the first words of the corresponding lines in the next poem.  This structure adds to the beauty of the title and to the easy flow of the story.  The author’s notes on this form, people, places and language add to the understanding of the book.



HORN BOOK: “Compellingly poignant as well as authentic.” 

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: “Frost’s ingeniously structured novel in verse . . . may be set in 1850, but its themes will resonate with today’s teens.  Memorable.” 

BOOKLIST: “…the book will inspire both students and teachers to go back and study how the taut poetic lines manage to contain the powerful feelings.”



*http://www.helenfrost.net contains a link to more information about The Braid.  Students can explore the geographical locations from the story.

*Use the story as a companion to World History or immigration.

*Can be a springboard to topics of death and loss, family relationships, and others.

*The Braid is a winner of numerous awards and is a 2007 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book.



Filed under: Poetry — anet smith @ 4:15 pm


Lewis, J. Patrick. Doodle Dandies:  Poems That Take Shape.  Ill. by Lisa Desimini.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.  ISBN:  068981075X



Doodle Dandies are all about shape!  Each poem by Lewis is skillfully crafted in words and design to form a picture of the poem’s subject.  In the two-page spread of “Mirror”, there is a mirror image of both the words of the poem and the illustration on the second page.  “Mirror” begins, “You looking out/at me looking in-/I am an I-/dentical twin!”  Some of the poems are simple, such as “The Turtle/is a giant hurdle”.  To enhance the meaning, there is an ant drawn with the words that curve up over the illustration of a turtle. 



This collection of poetry is appropriate for preschool and elementary kids.  Although, some of the lines may be challenging for young readers to follow (because of the shape); persistence will be rewarded with fun verse. The title, Doodle Dandies, and cover design (each letter in the title are illustrated differently and it appears that letters are raining down on a girl holding an umbrella) will make kids inquisitive to what’s inside.  Once inside, children’s attention will be held as every poem is something of interest or familiar.  There are poems about animals, an umbrella, sports, space, and more. Every page gives the eye something interesting.  The mixed-media illustrations by Lisa Desimini provide bold pictures and the poems are in shapes (i.e. a dachshund) or along the illustrations (on the legs of swimmers and along the pool water).  I think these elements working together provide added entertainment for readers.  I couldn’t wait to see the next poem.



PUBLISHERS WEEKLY:  “…this mix of clever language and visual delights makes a dandy treat for all ages.”

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: “Doodle Dandies captures the joy that wordplay can bring. It deserves a place on every library shelf.”

HORN BOOK MAGAZINE: “Through fanciful design and illustration, these poems take both shape and flight as they soar through the imaginative landscape.”




There are a variety of books by Lewis that can be used alongside science and social studies units for all ages.

*Simon’s Book by Henrik Drescher ISBN: 9780688020859.  Use along with Doodle Dandies to discuss “doodles”.

*The endpapers of Doodle Dandies feature doodles that appear to have been drawn by children.  Use this book and others to discuss the art in endpapers, making comparisons and contrasts.